Aug 10, 2018
RidgeFest 2018 shows off new orchard plantings, varieties and cider

About 100 fruit growers and others in the produce industry attended RidgeFest 2018, a tour of orchards near Sparta, Michigan sponsored by the Michigan Pomesters group.

Patrick Goodfellow Orchards

The group registered and ate lunch at a new apple storage facility built at Patrick Goodfellow Orchards, where Goodfellow and the construction firm spoke about the facility and the work that had been done there. Then the group got onto tractor trailers and traveled to a new planting at the orchard.

Rather than plant finished trees from the nursery, Goodfellow tried “planting in place:” planting the rootstocks themselves in the orchard in order to avoid shocking the finished tree by replanting. Prior to planting, he bench-grafted ambrosia and Honeycrisp to the rootstocks, which are bud nine and the more vigorous bud 10 rootstocks. He spoke openly about some of the difficulties of “planting in place” and taking on some of the challenges of dealing with young plants — challenges usually handled by nurseries.

There’s another opportunity to help the trees if bench grafts fail, Goodfellow said.

“If the root’s still alive, you can come along and put a chip bud in it,” he said. “It’s generally not as big a tree, but it’s not bad.”

Goodfellow said he had initially been opposed to using grow tubes on the young trees but would probably try it next season.

“I’m going to do something different,” he said. “I was nervous about the grow tubes this year, with the bench grafts because it’s so tender, and when you go to plant that thing in, it’s not all calloused out. And if you tweak that top, you screwed up your month-worth of healing process, because you chip-bud or bench graft them sometime in March, and then you throw them back in a box, throw them back in storage, and then you plant them all in May.”

Summit Farms

The owner of Summit Farms wasn’t present, but several people spoke about new and managed apple varieties at a stop in the orchard. Most notably, Bill Dodd of the Midwest Apple Improvement Association (MAIA) spoke about the group’s rollout of the MAIA-1 cultivar marketed as EverCrisp, which is growing in popularity among growers’ new plantings, in addition to other MAIA projects, such as LudaCrisp and Rosalee.

Don Armock of Riveridge Produce Marketing and Scott Swindeman of Applewood Orchards spoke about the costs and difficulties of managed varieties, and the likely effects of Washington State’s Cosmic Crisp apples flooding the market in the near future.

Wanda Heuser spoke about how to legally plant and market ambrosia apples now that the club variety’s patents on the cultivar have expired.

Green Tree Orchards

The next stop was at Green Tree Orchards where Fred Rasch and his sons Jordan and Ryan gave a presentation on preventing sunburn by spraying on a Calcium-carbonate-based particle film, Diffusion.

Michigan State University Extension agent Amy Irish-Brown spoke about trapping brown marmorated stink bugs. Extension agent Phil Schwallier also spoke his trials, including one that found apple maggots present in the soil in the middle of an orchard.

Windy Ridge Orchards

Kyle Rasch of Windy Ridge Orchards spoke about a new planting of Honeycrisp in growth tubes in rows with variable widths of seven feet and eleven feet and how they would be managed. The variable rows allow for more surface area for the trees to flourish.

Chris Lattak of Trickl-Eez Irrigation spoke about investing in irrigation systems.

2018 Apple Queen Emily Kropf briefly spoke – she has a busy schedule for the fall with many appearances at farm markets while starting college as a freshman at Michigan State University, where she plans to major in agriculture business management with a Spanish minor.

Schaefer Cider Company
The tour ended with a bit of a celebration – enjoying snacks and drink samples at Schaefer Cider Company in Conklin.

The Schaefer family has been growing apples since 1885, but in more recent years has begun selling cider processed from apples too large or ugly to sell fresh.

Jordan DeVries, a Produce Safety Technician from the Newaygo Conservation District, spoke about the importance of food safety practices.

– Stephen Kloosterman, FGN Associate Editor

View a gallery of photos from the event here: 

RidgeFest 2018





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